Hair-styling, the African way. Women wear African-Colombian hairstyle during the 8th contest of Afro-hairdressers, in Cali, Valle del Cauca departament, Colombia. AFP Photo/Luis Robayo
Many people of other cultures try to hide their African roots by bleaching their skin and claiming to be Indian. Columbia sounds like a beautifully diverse and proud country/culture. Every year, they take part in Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Cali to celebrate their African roots, culture and hair.
Women presenting Afro-Colombian Hairstyle
Once a year in Colombia, on May 21st, they celebrate the day of Afro Colombians commemorating the abolition of slavery in that country that happened the same day in the year 1851. The year 2011 also has been declared by the UN as the International Year for People of African Descent so the reunion in Cali, Colombia was even more special.
As part of the celebration, there is a contest of Afro Hairstyles that has the purpose of honoring the African culture and the people who works waving African hair and keep this tradition alive.The contest has three categories: Women braids, Men braids and Children hairstyles. At the same time something called the “Hairstyle Marathon” takes place where you can go and have your hair braided for a good price.
Below is a story in New York Post on the Afro-Colombian Hair braid-stylist Ziomara Asprilla Garcia:
Afro-Colombian women braid messages of freedom in hairstyles
She works under a sign that says “Tejiendo Colores,” “Weaving Colors.” Behind her, a second sign says that “the art of hairdressing has become an icon of Afro-Colombian identity.”They braid hairstyles by looking at objects around them and using innovation to to braid hair to look like it.
Colombia program intern Christina Obiajulu with hairstyling by Ziomara
Asprilla García. Photo by Kathryn Mitchell/Smithsonian Insitution
Ziomara Asprilla Garcia remembers the click, click, click of her mother’s hands quickly braiding strands of hair and twisting them into neat rows under a mango tree in Colombia.
Click, click, click in the fresh breeze in the city of Istmina in the state of Choco. Her mother’s fingers seemed wondrous and magical, moving as though they were extensions of thought. She watched quietly as her mother parted her sister’s hair and twisted it into elaborate hairstyles, continuing the centuries-old tradition of hair braiding by Afro-Colombian women.
“I was always curious and captivated by the way my mother moved her hands,” says Asprilla Garcia, who has come to the Smithsonian Folklife Festival to represent the Afro-Colombian women of Choco.
The way her mother braided was the old way, a way that came with her people from Africa. As she demonstrates braiding, Asprilla Garcia, 34, explains its history in Colombia. It is where Asprilla Garcia lives in a caramel-colored house, near a mango tree, with her husband, son, mother-in-law, two servants and a young boy who was so poor that she took him in to care for him. It is where she still braids in the breeze, on the porch or under her mango tree.
Afro-Colombian Hairstyle in a shape of Butterfly
“I love to braid,” she says.
Asprilla Garcia was 8 when she learned to braid. As she grew up, she created more elaborate hairstyles that include birds, butterflies and even musical instruments. It was with these styles that she won first place last year at a braiding festival in Bogota. A few months later, the Smithsonian curators who canvassed the region looking for representative cultural activities called and told her she had been chosen to demonstrate Choco’s braiding tradition at the Folklife Festival.
On the Mall, crowds press close to Asprilla Garcia’s table and watch her braid. They seem to be in awe of her intricate designs.
She works under a sign that says “Tejiendo Colores,” “Weaving Colors.” Behind her, a second sign says that “the art of hairdressing has become an icon of Afro-Colombian identity.”
“How long does that take?” asks Betty Belin, an onlooker holding a snapshot of a complex design.
“Three hours,” Asprilla Garcia says in Spanish, through a translator.
A little girl with blond hair climbs into a chair, and Asprilla Garcia takes strands from a green, acrylic hair extension and wraps them around shocks of the girl’s hair, intertwining them into a long, single braid. The girl climbs down from the chair and smiles.
A woman has an Afro-Colombian hairstyle done during the 9th contest of Afro-hairdressers, in Cali, Valle del Cauca departament, Colombia, on May 12, 2013. The Afro hairstyles have their origins in the time of slavery, when women sat to comb their children hair after work. (Photo by Luis Robayo/AFP Photo)
Asprilla Garcia tells the audience that the braiding tradition is many hundreds of years old in Colombia and older still in Africa.
The first slaves arrived in Colombia around the beginning of the 16th century. Most were brought by the Spaniards who colonized the area. They settled near the coastal areas, where most of the sugar plantations were operated, says Denisse Yanovich, cultural attache at the Embassy of Colombia.
Hairstyling, the African way
Beautiful Afro-Colombian braids
But groups of slaves escaped and found refuge in areas that were geographically remote. In these areas, once thought to be uninhabitable, groups of runaway slaves thrived and built communities. The populations of these areas — including Choco, where Asprilla Garcia is from — have been mainly black for hundreds of years.
Woman braiding Afro-Colombian hairstyle,Cali
Shots from annual; Afro-Colombian Hairstyle competition
Shots from annual; Afro-Colombian Hairstyle competition
A woman presents an Afro-Colombian hairstyle during the 9th contest of Afro-hairdressers, in Cali, Valle del Cauca departament, Colombia, on May 12, 2013. (Photo by Luis Robayo/AFP Photo)
A woman gets an Afro-Colombian hairstyle during the 9th contest of Afro-hairdressers, in Cali, Valle del Cauca departament, Colombia, on May 12, 2013. (Photo by Luis Robayo/AFP Photo)
A man presents an Afro-Colombian hairstyle during the 9th contest of Afro-hairdressers, in Cali, Valle del Cauca departament, Colombia, on May 12, 2013. (Photo by Luis Robayo/AFP Photo)
Cali, Colombia May 2012 'Tejiendo Esperanza' 'Weaving hopes'